Two Well-Contested Finals In Rome? In Paris Sharapova Might Do Better Than Djokovic - UBITENNIS
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Two Well-Contested Finals In Rome? In Paris Sharapova Might Do Better Than Djokovic

Nadal leads the head-to-head against Zverev 4-0, but time will certainly favour the youngster. Svitolina is looking to once again defeat Halep in a repeat of last year’s final, during which the Ukrainian was a little lucky.




Rafael Nadal (

ROME – When the men’s tournament showcases the No. 1-seed against the No. 2-seed and the women’s event features the No. 1-seed against the No. 4-seed in a repeat of last year’s final, we can safely say that the best players have made it to championship Sunday.


Rafael Nadal will always be the overwhelming favourite in every clay-court tournament he enters. Zverev has been the most consistent player on tour during the last few weeks: after capturing back to back titles in Munich and Madrid, he survived a tough draw in Rome with plenty of hard-fought matches. The German was put under pressure by Edmund, Goffin and Cilic, but at the end he emerged as the winner in all three clashes.

Zverev is showing the same qualities that separated the Fab Four – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – from the rest of the pack for the past 10 or 15 years. He is the most consistent among the Next Gen players and has the innate quality to dig himself out of a hole every time he is trouble, even against valuable players.

Four-time Italian Open champion Novak Djokovic and three-time champion Maria Sharapova are the big losers of yesterday’s semifinals. Despite the tough losses, both Novak and Maria seemed quite happy in defeat. Djokovic reached his first semifinal and played his best match of the year against Nadal, “the greatest clay-court player of all-time,” the Serb said in his post-match press conference. Sharapova came into the clay-court season with a three-match losing streak and at the Foro Italico she dismissed a bunch of very good players, including Barty, Cibulkova, Gavrilova and Ostapenko. In the semifinals, the Russian pushed world No. 1 Simona Halep to a third set that could have gone either way.

After her Meldonium-related doping suspension, Sharapova’s comeback to the top of the game looked improbable. The same applies to Djokovic, who seemed completely out of source after the deep crisis that started affecting him in mid-2016.

Despite being far from reconquering their former glory, both superstars showed some very encouraging signs this week in Rome. As for their chances at the French Open, I think much will depend on their draws. Sharapova should be seeded 28 or 29, while Djokovic should be at 22 and could in theory run into Nadal as early as the round of 32.

Between the two of them, I think Maria has more chances to do well, for the simple fact that there is no clay-court legend like Rafael Nadal in the women’s tournament. Sharapova can truly defeat anyone on any given day. In Paris she will also benefit from a day of rest in between matches, which she didn’t have this week in Rome. Sharapova reached the semifinals after spending more than nine hours on the court, while her opponent Simona Halep only spent two and a half hours.

In yesterday’s semifinal, Nole played a great first set, taking advantage of the fact that Nadal wasn’t playing his best tennis. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the second set the Serb only won three points in the first three Nadal’s service games. Djokovic never recovered after being broken early in the set.

Despite the loss, Djokovic’s backhand was in full display both down-the-line and cross-court. He also served at 200 km per hour at times, showing that the elbow is not bothering him anymore. On the other hand, his level started to decline in the second set, which makes me wonder whether the Serb is fully ready to compete in five-set matches against the best in the world or not.

According to Nadal, Djokovic’s problem was more mental than physical: “When you are not very confident and haven’t won many matches, your mental effort has to be much bigger, especially when you are playing shots that are not very natural for you. When you are confident, you don’t have to think that much and as a result you become less tired. I have been in that type of situation before. When you come back from a long break and haven’t won too many matches, you are more under stress. I think Djokovic is ready for Roland Garros.”

I am curious to see how Zverev will fare against Nadal today. Time is only playing in Zverev’s favor and it will be interesting to see if the gap with Nadal is still as wide as in their four previous encounters, which were all won by the Spaniard.

The women’s final between Svitolina and Halep seems to be very even, at least on paper. After winning the first set in last year’s championship match, Halep injured her ankle and never looked quite the same player. The 3-2 head-to-head in Svitolina’s favor is also partially misleading because of that incident.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – )


Laver Back In the Conversation For Greatest Player?

Daniil Medvedev thwarted Djokovic’s Calendar Year Grand Slam ambitions and is ready to take over as the best in the game.




Who’s the greatest player ever?


How about Rod Laver, the owner of two Calendar Grand Slams?

Or what about Rafa Nadal, the owner of 21 major singles titles (including Olympic Gold)?

Or what about 20-20-20-Laver?


Since Novak Djokovic failed in his bid to win a Calendar Grand Slam on Sunday, I nominate the last of the three possibilities. 20-20-20-Laver sounds like a winner.

For Djokovic just to enter the conversation was a major achievement, and that was spurred by the Serbian’s bid for a Calendar Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev ended that conversation on Sunday, at least for now, with his straight-set 4-4-4 dismantling of Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.


As 2021 turned out, it was a really disappointing year for Djokovic, even though he won the year’s first three Grand Slam events. Most players would be out celebrating if they won three Grand Slams in one year.

The loss to Alexander Zverev in the Tokyo Olympics ended Novak’s Golden Grand Slam. And then Medvedev took care of the Calendar Grand Slam talk and the possibility of Djokovic breaking a 20-20-20 deadlock with Nadal and Roger Federer.

So, what’s next? I doubt that Novak is planning to skip the Australian Open in January. Even that one won’t be easy for Djokovic as a result of what has happened in late summer.


Djokovic has practically owned the Australian Open with nine titles in Melbourne, and eight of the last 11. But Medvedev and Zverev will be major obstacles for Djokovic in Melbourne, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Australian Open isn’t likely to be a picnic for Novak, even if Federer and Nadal skip the trip. If so, Federer and Nadal will be leaving the Australian Open in capable hands.

Things should start heating up by the quarterfinals Down Under.

By the way, Djokovic is 34 years old. That’s about the age Nadal started having trouble winning Grand Slams.


Medvedev beat Djokovic at just about everything he tried on Sunday. Djokovic was never in the game on serving competition or powerful forehands.

Those areas belonged to the 25-year-old Russian.

And movement? On this day, Medvedev had a picnic. The 6-6 first-time Grand Slam winner was everywhere with his amazing quickness. Djokovic couldn’t put a dent in his baseline defense.

Medvedev even out-did Djokovic in the Serbian’s usually solid drop shot department, pinning  even more disappointment on Novak.

Novak even caused a ball girl to change directions during the match as he swung his racket near the surface in  frustration after losing a point. Later, he punished his racket by smashing it into the court and destroying it.


The key to the relatively easy win for Medvedev was his serve. He was a perfect 15-for-15 on first-serve points in the opening set.

Medvedev obviously had little trouble with his serve until he was ready to end the match. With Medvedev owning a match point at 5-2 in the third set, the crowd tried to help Djokovic. Only then when the crowd got into the act of trying to break Medvedev’s attention did he double-fault twice in a row before netting a forehand to give Djokovic the game.

But in the final game of the match, Medvedev was ready for the crowd attack, although he double-faulted another match point away before ending the match with a big serve out wide for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Djokovic managed only to hit the bottom of the net with his backhand return.

And suddenly, the tall Russian looks like the best player in the game.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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Raducanu Proved She’s The Better Player

The British sensation shocked the tennis world – can she keep it up in the coming years?




They played in the largest tennis stadium in the world.


They were teenagers. They achieved a dream early in their careers.

It just as easily could have been a junior championship a year earlier in their careers.

Only a few people would have been watching then. Such an event might not even have drawn newspaper coverage.


This meeting was much bigger and more important. The two participants would be $2.7 million richer between them before the day ended. They would become famous the world over, at least for now.

But this was Saturday, 9/11/21.

Real life now sets in. There probably are at least 100 other players in the world who are just as outstanding as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. Yet, most of them will never be involved in a Grand Slam singles final.


What Raducanu and Fernandez accomplished will never be forgotten, always listed in tennis annals.

England will always be proud of its new Grand Slam champion. At long last, Virginia Wade has company.

And Canada will never forget its feisty Grand Slam runner-up.

They stood the test while other more touted and talented players buckled at the knees. High-ranked players crumbled at the thought of losing to a mere teenager.

Next time, that advantage probably won’t exist.


Raducanu and Fernandez played the final like the teenagers they are.

Raducanu came close to making it a one-sided result when she held match point twice with a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Fernandez did not give up on her left-handed game that Raducanu had conquered before in the junior ranks.

After losing both points and the game to make the match closer, Raducanu fought off a pair of break points in the next game before making good on her third match point for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The British 18-year-old generally outplayed the 19-year-old Fernandez most of the 111-minute final. Raducanu had more firepower on her serve and ground strokes.


Raducanu played like a tour veteran, even if it was only her fourth tour-level event. It was her 10th straight win without dropping a set, counting her three wins in qualifying just to get into the main draw. No women’s qualifier before even had advanced to a Grand Slam final.

She has the game to win consistently on the tour, but probably not strong enough to challenge the Top 10 players and Grand Slam titlists right away. She’s now no longer under the radar. Everyone wants to beat a Grand Slam champion.

This may have been just a one-shot opening that Raducanu took full advantage of to win a Grand Slam title.  Just in case the road ahead gets bumpy, she might want to be thrifty with the $1.8 million payday.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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Novak Djokovic Was Pushed To An Amazing Performance

Zverev fell just short of beating the world N.1, and now Medvedev is the last obstacle still standing on his path to a Calendar Year Grand Slam




Novak Djokovic was simply amazing Friday night.


True, he made a few mistakes against Alexander Zverev, but not when they counted most.

Zverev also was superb, but his mistakes came when they counted really big.

For those reasons, Djokovic is getting ready to play for the unthinkable. No one had thought much about a Calendar Grand Slam until back in June when Djokovic shocked the tennis world with a victory over Rafa Nadal at the French Open.

By the time Wimbledon came around without Roger Federer and Nadal in the field, the odds were high that Djokovic actually could achieve a Calendar Grand Slam. And then he won Wimbledon and in the process turned the race for most Grand Slam titles into a 20-20-20 battle.


When Federer and Nadal pulled out of the U.S. Open, all of Djokovic’s goals except a Golden Grand Slam when he lost to Zverev at the Olympics were in play.

Nearly two weeks later, Djokovic is one victory away from breaking out of the 20-20-20 deadlock as well as completing a rare Calendar Grand Slam.

Zverev pressed Djokovic into playing his very best to escape with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory in the U.S. Open semifinals. Only a cold start to the fifth set chilled Zverev’s hopes of spoiling Novak’s dreams.

Even after losing the first five games of the fifth set, Zverev still came close to making things interesting by winning the next two games and going to 30-30 in the eighth game.


Zverev’s improving game, and his big strokes and serves probably were enough to make Novak hope he won’t have to face Zverev’s hard balls again in January at the Australian Open.

That leaves only Daniil Medvedev between Djokovic and immortality.

Medvedev will have to be at his best to beat Novak. The slender 6-6 Russian can’t afford even a brief meltdown if he is to take Djokovic to the wire.

Medvedev appeared to be in awe of Djokovic when the two met in  this year’s Australian Open final.  Djokovic won that one easily in straight sets.


Medvedev’s game is a piece of work. He is completely unpredictable.

His whip forehand is one of the best shots in tennis. He backs it up with incredible movement.

It all depends on whether Medvedev can stick with Novak until the end. If Medvedev is still there, Novak likely will feel the heavy legs from his 214-minute bout with Zverev.

Not even Djokovic can out-move Medvedev. And the Russian’s uniquely quick serve has plenty of pop. He is due to win a Grand Slam.

But Medvedev will have to pull off a miracle against one of the smartest and slyest players tennis has ever seen if he is to win this U.S. Open.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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